Chapter 20: The Words of Taren Garrenin
Edya felt uncomfortable and out of place among the eight Morschcoda. She knew that Galeth felt similar, but he had held an important place in his country for far longer than she had in hers. Erygan had sent Torridestan Portallers to hasten Ranny’s and Norrin’s arrivals, as they could wait no longer. Kallin began by slowly, reverently lowering El Kardi Morschcoda onto the table that the ten stood around.
“Many of us called Taren Garrenin our king. We looked to him and to Drogoda. We made our own decisions, but we answered to Taren. But now, our situation is desperate. There are many Morschen claiming to have seen one or more of the Seven Devils on Anarian soil. Many Ristans claim to have seen The Kindler himself. Makret Druoth has betrayed us, and Taren Garrenin is dead. Seven of us were Morschcoda when Taren proclaimed himself King of Drogoda. Seven of us here were pledged to him. Are those of you who served him willing to bow to whoever he has named? We cannot afford to break apart.” Gelida nodded, but the rest betrayed nothing. “And those of you who did not own Taren as your lord, will you abide by his decision? Whether you bow to them or not, it will affect you.”
Erygan looked at Norrin and Marrdin. “We are agreed. Taren was many things, but we aren’t inclined to believe that his choice would prove ill for us, either personally or for Anaria. We won’t pledge ourselves, but we will support whoever Taren has named.”
“Then we shall open El Kardi Morschcoda.” Beginning to chant, Kallin flipped several pages, until he stopped at one closer to the front than Edya thought it should have been. “Hear now the words of Taren Garrenin, as written in his own hand, and read from El Kardi Morschcoda, as has never been done before, in this age of the world.” Kallin began reading, but at first, no one understood him. Edya thought that she could pick out words or sometimes even phrases, but not much more. She was glad to see that the others were confused. Kallin finally seemed to realize what was wrong.
“I’m sorry. I’m so used to the old tomes of the Great Library, many of which are written in Old Morsch. I sometimes forget that it is a language few besides the Demosira now understand.”
“Taren was fluent in Old Morsch. I’d forgotten that.”
“So it seems, Erygan. I will begin again. Forgive the pauses that I will have to make, as it seems that I must translate as I read.” He once more bent over the words written in Taren’s firm but graceful hand.
Many Morschcoda wait until well into their ninth century before choosing to tell the tale of the life that they have lived. Maybe it is because they do not wish to be seen as they truly are while they still wish to enjoy the time remaining to them. El Kardi Morschcoda isn’t biased. But this doesn’t worry me. No, it’s something else that drives me, for, though many even of the Ringless Morschen pass the tale of nine hundred years, I feel the ever increasing weight of my seven and one half centuries pressing me down, even as I sit here and write. I do not think that I shall live to see the completion of Lasheed’s purpose for which I was appointed, but I hope to at least see the Morschcoda Council continue. The Morschen, at the very least, I hope to allow to survive. My story is long and complicated, full of threats, regrets, contradictions, pointless musings not meant to be understood, although you, Kallin, might find them interesting, and several painful secrets that I had wished to take to the grave, and may still, but they must be said. I know some of you will hate me for what I have to put in writing. Some of you were probably only looking for an excuse. I know that everyone who reads this will be shocked at more than one point. As for certain things, I had hoped to say them in person, and maybe I still will, but the point approaches where Erygan and I will attempt to break the Anarian Treaty, so I count on very little.
“This was written over fifty years ago,” exclaimed Ranny.
“Five. Taren was only seven hundred and sixty. But I do wonder how much of what happened in the last fifty years was planned long ago” said Gelida.
“So far, he isn’t very clear on anything.”
“Taren never was, Norrin,” answered Galeth.
“No speaking. Continue Kallin.” Kallin nodded and bent again over the cramped script.
My story begins not with my birth, as you might expect, but many thousands of years before that, in the waning days of El Bendro Dakoia. Only two Morschcoda still stood, Egrin Carrick of Torridesta, and Taren Garrenin the First, of Drogoda. I say the countries, but really, none had been formed yet. I merely state which countries claim to be descended from the two Morschcoda in question. Taren fell, but his line and name endured after the war, and through several more wars that we Garrenins fought amongst ourselves. Our long line was strained, and it failed in Drogoda, but it was never fully broken, continuing on in Rista, of all places, through Anaria’s Royal Family. The long years passed, House Garrenin ruled Anaria from Eliish del Lasheed, until Garisha Garrenin the Arrogant, and the war that nearly tore Anaria apart. We were fortunate then, for most or all of the Seven Devils still slumbered, brutally weakened from El Bendro Dakoia, even so long before as it was. But my line was thought to have broken with Garisha. It didn’t, clearly, but we deemed the time unripe to reveal our continued existence. We returned to our true home in Drogoda. Prophecies were made about us. Most weren’t believed, as it was widely thought that House Garrenin was already dead and buried under the Ristan ice.
“He doesn’t say what those prophecies were, does he?”
“Not at this moment, Xari, though I doubt he would make any reference if they were not included.”
“Let Kallin continue.”
House Garrenin came to power in Drogoda, our pride of old forgotten or ignored by the world at large. Demosira whispered in their vaulted archives that the Garrenin line had returned, a Morschcoda or two might have recalled enough of the past to understand the name’s significance, but rarely was the excitement of those few understood. None lived who remembered what we had once been, and so, after more than one war, though for the first time every Garrenin fought on the same side, we became Drogoda’s Morschcodal House. And now, we come to what some may consider ancient history, though for me it is still the recent past. Garrick Garrenin was Garisha reborn, if you believe in such things. Though he was not a True-born Garrenin, he was in every way as arrogant as, well, me. I assume that mine was the name on your tongue as you read that. He sought to prove a Seer’s words wrong. He has, in fact, only proved them right, and brought about the end of House Garrenin all the quicker. Hating me, though adoring my sister and mocking me in front of my brothers, he decided to try to bring about my death. He sent me to An-Aniath as his Ambassador, hoping that I would die along the way, or that I might meet with an ‘accident’ while in the city, as more than a few Ambassadors between Armanda and Drogoda have. And so, we come to the chapter of my life that I will never forgive myself for, but also the one I assume is the reason for your reading of this book. You read to see whether or not I had a child, whether or not I named an heir. Well, you’ll see.
In An-Aniath, I met Nemira Gundara, next in line for the Throne of Fire. Listen well to this next part, Xari, for things you should long have known are here revealed.
“How does he know that I’m here? That we’re here? He seems to know that we will be the ones to read this, but it might have been thousands of years before we managed to open the book.”
“Taren wanted this read, and he knew or assumed that Kallin would know how to read it” answered Erygan. “As for why he specifically says our names, it may be because he doesn’t know who will rule in the future, and so addresses it to those of us who lead now.”
“I think that is well reasoned” said Kallin. Bowing his head again, he started to read for the third time.
Nemira and I married, as secretly as possible. Not to avoid notice from Armandans, that would have been impossible, but rather to avoid my father’s notice. The real reason I had gone to An-Aniath, aside from it being dangerous to refuse, was to gain support for when my father should step to far, so that, if needed, I could push him off the cliff. I knew that a Drog Civil war was brewing, anyone alive could have told you that. Many Drogs were already calling for Garrick’s removal, and more than a few for his head. I had my share of supporters among those, and most of them are dead now. Many died who were caught between Garrick and me, especially the ones who had a stake in my father emerging in victory. But my father would have known instantly that my marriage was, aside from both a reasonable match and a marriage of actual love, instead of these political marriages that I don’t believe in, which is why I never married again, an attempt to gain power and support outside of Drogoda. I claim full responsibility for Nemira’s death, no matter what Makret may say. I was the one she was married to, and I know what, and who, killed her. The fires of her spirit boiled the oceans of mine, but in return, mine quenched hers, and she died, barely three years after we married. It is a blow that I have never recovered from. I thank Lasheed that at that point, I had too much to do. If I hadn’t, I think I would have been driven to madness from losing her. With her death, I resigned as Ambassador to Armanda, and bereft of purpose, I prepared to leave An-Aniath the day that Nemira’s ashes were scattered across the sands, writing one last song that I doubt that I shall ever sing again, for, though few now know it, I was once a very different man. One who could laugh, and write, and sing. Nemira’s death took all of that from me. Maybe I have gone mad, but either way, what has been is past, and I must continue my story.
At the request of the then Storinean Morschcoda, Barish Revdark, I went to Dorok-Baan. Makret had returned to Morieden City over a month before to ensure that my supporters in Drogoda had not fallen away. He had to go in secret and remain hidden, for he had been arrested more than once before we met, and my father still wished to have him ‘brought to justice’. I had intervened in that, for I had felt his power, but that is a story for another time, and if I survive what is set before me, maybe I will tell it. Barish and his son Garneth received me well, possibly because he assumed that if war should break out in Drogoda, I would be the victorious one.
“Your father was an impulsive man, Kallin.”
“My grandfather, Taren said” the short Storinean replied, before he continued.
I returned to Alquendiro by way of Eshtam-Nis. Arona Marcarry was more reluctant to support me than Barish and Garneth, but I persuaded her in the end. I often regretted what I had decided to do in Eshtam-Nis, but it was the only way forward that I could see. I knew it was necessary to leave all ties to Nemira behind me, but that did make it any easier. And so I returned to Drogoda. To say my father was displeased to see me back again was an understatement. My status as the Prince of Morieden, his heir, which not even he could change, protected me from anything he might have done to me directly as a result of me returning to Alquendiro, but it did not prevent him from trying. Two of my brothers were like my father. They hated me, for reasons that I doubt will ever be explained with any satisfaction. They needed little convincing to divide the country against me. And I would have lost if the Brotherhood of the Mordak hadn’t seen through the veil of the war and turned to me. The war, as other histories recount, was long and bloody, likely the longest period of constant conflict, and most certainly the bloodiest conflict, in all of Drogoda’s history. Other Garrenin Wars are held to be longer in the years they stretched, but some of those went years or even decades between true battles. The Drog Civil War went days, or hours, and sometimes, not even that long.
It was said in Drogoda long ago of my family that when Garrenin’s quarrel, even the hills will hide. Sometimes, it seemed as though they tried to. The war was fought almost entirely in my own land, the Princedom of Morieden, on the Plains of Moredo. My four siblings, three brothers and one sister, held the southern bank of the Cardor River which cuts the plains in two, while I and my armies camped to the north. The Cardor River is almost a mile wide all along the plains, and no matter how many rafts and boats we built, we couldn’t cross it. I don’t know how many men I lost in three attempts to cross the Cardor, but it proved to be a fierce boundary. So, instead of forcing my way across, I forced them to come to me. I retreated almost one hundred miles to the north, and my brothers pursued me mercilessly, my sister less eagerly. It was a perfect trap. Makret had been debating with the Masters of the Brotherhood, and they had finally agreed. They arrived at the same time as my brothers did, but remained hidden. They were not to attack unless my negotiations failed. I think that Anyana and Elich were growing tired of the conflict, and would have surrendered if Garret and Dreth hadn’t been so forceful in their hatred. And I perceived other motives. That day, it almost literally rained blood. I didn’t reveal the Brotherhood’s presence at the battlefield until late that day. Their main task was to prevent anyone from escaping. They weren’t supposed to join in the battle. Garret and Dreth both died on my blade that day, after which I christened it Mishdonkar, the Fountain of Death. Anyana surrendered almost as soon as she knew that they were dead. She and Elich told everything, how Garrick had manipulated them into this war, how he had promised that they would hang if I was not dead by the year’s end. I went straight to the Morschcoda Council, even though, and because, Garrick sat on it. He was removed almost instantly, after little debate. The Morschcoda needed little help in reaching their decision, knowing the man and his actions for themselves, but he wouldn’t relinquish the title, and the Council couldn’t force him to. The Mordak Council of Drogoda thought differently. Garrick Garrenin was executed, by me. It is custom in Drogoda for a condemned man to choose his own executioner and the manner by which he will die. I will never understand his choice, but Mishdonkar willingly removed his head without slightest misfortune. He and two of my brothers died on Mishdonkar. The Fountain of Death drinks blood eagerly. Too eagerly maybe, but death follows the Garrenin name like a hound follows a smell.
Emissaries from several countries soon followed my victory. Erygan Dalrey, next in line for the Throne of Shadows, came from Torridesta. A Dragon Rider, Galeth Tendornin, came bearing royal greetings from Meclarya. Garneth Revdark himself, who would soon ascend to the Throne of Stars, came from Storinea. Eventually, a young Atalin Danalath accompanied the ten year old Dothrin Daughter-Heir, Daliana Marcarry, from Dothoro. These, Daliana excepted, became some of my closest friends, especially Erygan. We launched a desperate bid to fill Eliish del Anaria and truly unite the Ten Nations under one banner. I gave Atalin my support, and he rose to become Lord of the Half-Elvin. Arona Marcarry died young, which both surprised and grieved me, for she was a great lady, but I helped Daliana to secure her mother’s throne, young though she was, and arranged for Galeth Tendornin to be in excellent position to be named Chief Rider of the Dragon Riders. And Erygan joined the Morschcoda Council, thirteen years after me. Things didn’t happen in that order, for if they did, Daliana wouldn’t have even been twenty three when she took the Throne of Leaves. But things were falling into place. Still, our plan lacked support of older Morschcoda, for such a scheme could cost Garneth his place, as well as us ours. So we waited, but we weren’t silent. I introduced El Darnen to the wider world, as no doubt you guessed. Erygan and I rose in power, I as the only one capable of holding El Darnen in check, and Erygan as a rich, young lord with a large army he was willing to use. Between us, we removed seven Morschcoda from the Throne of Fire in three hundred years. The rest is well known, so now I will jump ahead three hundred years, to the breaking of the Morschcoda Council and the Anarian Treaty. I had hoped to avoid it, but it couldn’t be done.
“He was really planning to break The Council when he was only eighty four.” Gelida had maybe meant it as a question, but it came out as more of a statement of shock.
“You find that hard to believe, Gelida?”
“Yes I do, Erygan. How could you know all of this would happen?”
Kallin answered. “They made most of it happen according to what Taren says. I am more interested in how he knew that the Drog Civil War would occur.”
“Water and Shadow preserve what is past,” Edya answered “and using that, and logic, which Taren had more than his share of, we can sometimes pick out the threads of the future. Also, Drogs are overly emotional, as I’ve been told recently.” Here she threw a glance at Erygan. “There has been more than one war of succession in our past. I think, though, that it was obvious one would come to pass between Taren and his siblings. They hated him, and he didn’t care much about them, except for maybe his sister. But Erygan, you told me that the first time you met Taren, he had already been Morschcoda for thirteen years.” Erygan did not answer. He merely shrugged his shoulders.
Marrdin looked like he was going to debate Edya’s statements about Taren, but Galeth stepped in. “I think of all of us, Edya is the one who can speak clearest on this matter.” Marrdin shrugged.
Kallin nodded towards Galeth, and then continued his reading.
This is where many of you will form new opinions of me, for I write this section only months after the breaking of The Council. Already I rule my holdings with utter surety, though not because I am unchallenged. My father’s legacy included an elite force of assassins who, while my father lived, existed for the sole purpose of killing me. I had killed or captured at least ten before I even went to An-Aniath, but now they became useful. I didn’t want my enemies to simply disappear, for that would point to me more than if I killed them myself. And I was careful as to who I wanted removed. None of my most outspoken detractors were ever targeted, and only few of those who opposed me with real reasons ever died, and none of those in this way. These assassins, however, came up with a brilliant plan. My enemies, which I always chose, were attacked on the street by men supposedly robbing them. Town guards would come over to assist the victims, and in the struggle, my enemy would be severely hurt. A healer would take just a few minutes too long to get there. I am sure that there was speculation that I might have had something to do with the deaths, but no accusations were made. I wish that I could take credit for the plan that the assassins carried out, but it was theirs. Well, no. It was Makret’s idea, but they altered it so that it worked better. It was hard to hide the fact that everyone who was attacked was an outspoken enemy of mine, but they were not the faces or household names of my opposition, so it was enough to shed suspicion from me. And without their support, certain plots that my critics attempted to bring about miscarried, dealing much more damage to them than to me.
“That is far worse than what Guinira did to her enemies.”
“Xari, I agree with you, but now is not the time.”
“Of course it is, Marrdin. Taren wanted us to know this.”
“Yes, he wanted us to know, and he knew that we would form new opinions of him. But we can do that quietly while Kallin keeps reading.”
Nodding to Marrdin, Kallin looked back at the book. “It seems that there is not much more.” And he began again.
And now I speak of what you doubtless wish to know. Did I leave an heir? Yes, I did; a daughter from my marriage to Nemira Gundara. I can’t say this would be my first choice as to how I found out my father’s name, but, well, I honestly think I would prefer this way to what my life was. I have a daughter who never knew me as her father, because I wanted to protect her from my family and the curse that seems to follow us. It had to be done though, and though I regret my decision, it was the only one I could make when I left her behind in Dothoro. Oh yes, the prophecy. Now is the time, I think, when it should be heard. It goes something like …
‘Begun with Taren, with Taren it ends. Garrenin will be in Darkness, all having taken the final journey. But from the second Taren shall spring a new line. A mighty oak shall grow amidst the endless sea.’
“What does that mean? Taken the final journey?”
Edya answered. “Drogs sometimes refer to death as the Final Journey. But more often we say ‘to sail the seas alone’, and if Taren didn’t know how he was going to die, he would have said that.” Her voice trailed off.
“What are you saying, Edya?”
“I think I’m saying that Taren planned his death.”
“I don’t think so. Remember, Taren was quoting a prophecy.”
“And either way, we still do not know who his heir is.”
“Don’t we, Gelida?”
“He never said a name, Galeth.”
“He left us enough blatant hints. ‘I left her behind in Dothoro’, ‘A mighty oak shall grow amidst the endless sea’.”
Kallin began reading again.
Even though I know you are already trying to figure out if I mean who you think I mean, I will tell you that you are, most likely, right. Yes, Daliana Marcarry, you are my daughter; the heir of Taren Garrenin and Nemira Gundara. This knowledge though, only puts you in greater danger which I can no longer protect you from. The Kindler has beyond doubt returned to Anaria, which is why I am dead and the Morschcoda are searching for my heir.
I now speak directly to you, Daliana, my daughter. Know that The Kindler will never stop looking for the unbroken line of the first Garrenin. It is a danger to him, his one source of fear. But the source of that fear needs a weapon. Donkar-Hesta is lost to us, but a sword is hardly useful against the unadulterated evil which is The Kindler and his demonic kin. But there is something else. Taren Garrenin was the only Morschen to possess a Ring given to him by Lasheed himself, if the ancient legends can be believed. That Ring still exists, though for all I know, you will have to go to the other end of the world and farther to find it. But, Kallin has long studied the myths of the first Taren’s Ring. He will help you, my daughter.
Without ceremony, Kallin shut the book. All the Morschcoda looked around at each other.
Erygan spoke first. “I think the part that surprised me the most was that Taren ever wrote any kind of song. The words weren’t written down, were they Kallin?”
The rotund Morschcoda shook his head.
“His songs don’t matter. It is decided. Daliana is Taren’s heir,” said Norrin.
“I wonder why we didn’t see it before,” Marrdin added quietly.
“Taren knew that whoever he named would be targeted by all of us before The Kindler’s return.”
“No, honestly, Marrdin, you saw how far Taren went to capture Guinira. He obviously expected us to do the same to Daliana if we found out. He probably especially suspected Guinira, and even more so after he found out about that prison she threw her rivals in.”
“If you gentlemen have finished your no doubt interesting debates of Morschen politics,” broke in Edya, “perhaps we can discuss where Daliana went?”
Everyone looked around. Daliana was gone.